After her parents' visit, Tara lapses into depression. Desperate to reconcile with her family, she books a plane ticket to Buck's Peak. By accident, Tara sees an email from her mother to Erin in which her mother writes that Shawn has been saved, and Tara is under the influence of the devil. Faye also writes about having delivered Emily's second baby, and how she thanks God for helping her with the dangerous delivery. Tara is furious that her mother delivered the baby at home while knowing how dangerous it was going to be. She closes the email and leaves the house.
Tara is planning to fly back to Boston when she gets a call from Tyler. Their mother has reached out to him. Tyler wonders why Tara didn't confide in him sooner. Tara assumes that he would not believe her, but Tyler takes her side immediately. He has had his own experiences with Shawn's violence, and has no reason to mistrust Tara.
After completing her fellowship, Tara travels to the Middle East with Drew. She is in awe of the experiences she has had since leaving home, but also mourns for her relationship with her family. She decides to sever ties with her family for one year in order to heal.
Tara's emotional distress leaves her severely behind in her schoolwork, and she fears she won't be able to complete her PhD. She is still in contact with Tyler, who tries to persuade their parents to be more sympathetic to Tara, but he is not successful. Eventually, Shawn threatens to exile Tyler from the family if he keeps persisting. Tara fears that she is going to lose Tyler as well, convinced that he will choose the “stability” of the family over his relationship with her. Astonished, she receives a letter from Tyler declaring that he supports Tara, and views the family as abusive.
Tara starts attending counseling. Eventually, Tara focuses on her academic work again and returns to her research. She submits her dissertation on her 27th birthday and defends her thesis a few months later.
The spring after completing her PhD, Tara returns to Idaho. She visits her grandparents and asks her mother to come and meet her in town. Tara's mother refuses, saying she will not go against the will of her husband, and she will only see Tara if she comes to the house.